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This graphic shows the orbits of Mercury and Venus within the orbit of the Earth, and the maximum angular distance between these planets and the Sun as viewed from the Earth
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Courtesy of NASA.

The Innermost Planets as Bright Stars

Venus and Mercury, the innermost planets in the solar system, always appear only a small distance away from the Sun in the sky.


Mercury is so small and so close to the Sun (always within 28 degrees) that it is difficult to see from Earth, since it is usually lost in the Sun's glare. The innermost planet can be seen with the naked eye only at twilight, very low in the sky, near the horizon.


From Earth, Venus can appear up to 47 degrees away from the Sun. During these times, when it rises or sets a few hours before or after the Sun, it can be seen just before sunrise or just after sunset as a bright morning or evening star. At these times, Venus is up to 15 times brighter than the brightest star, Sirius, and can even cast shadows.


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Venus Inside and Out

Venus is the second planet from the Sun, and is Earth's closest neighbor in the solar system. Venus is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon, and sometimes looks like a bright star...more

History of Venus Transits

Sometimes Venus passes between Earth and the Sun. This event is called a transit of Venus. Transits of Venus don't happen very often. There is a pattern in the time between transits of Venus. The pattern...more

Transits of Venus

Sometimes the planet Venus gets between Earth and the Sun. Astronomers call that a "transit" of Venus. A transit is a little bit like an eclipse of the Sun, when the Moon gets between Earth and the Sun....more

The Poles of Venus

Venus is the hottest planet in our Solar System. On Earth, places near the equator are much warmer than places near the poles. On Venus, it is really hot everywhere... even at the North and South Poles....more

The Polar Atmosphere of Venus

A vortex is a swirling, circular movement of air and clouds... like in a tornado or hurricane. The plural form of vortex is "vortices". The planet Venus has vortices in its atmosphere above each of its...more

The Cooling of Venus

The following may be the history of Venus. Venus formed about 4 Billion Years ago. at the conclusion of forming it continued to be bombarded with leftover material. Many planets still bear the remains...more

Venus Tick

This is an example of a volcanic tick. ...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA